Unmasking the Virus: A Retail Diary of the Plague Years (Volume 3)

June 21, 2020

I’ve had this recurring nightmare since I started back at work. I’m at my job and I’m trying to disinfect the counter. It’s filthy, and every time I wipe it off it just gets worse.

Customers keep asking me questions, and I stop to answer them but then I go right back to the counter. My arm is sore and beads of sweat appear on my head.

Just when the countertop is almost clean, it morphs into sidewalk. And then a slide that kids are playing on. And then a brick wall. I keep cleaning.

Finally, the surface transforms into a giant snake. I’m still trying to clean it as it coils around me, and then it opens its jaws and swallows me.

There’s a momentary sense of relief. Yes, I’m going to die, but at least I can stop cleaning now. It doesn’t last long.

Inside the snake, there’s a huge chain of workers that stretches as far as I can see. It’s like one of those old-timey assembly lines with a conveyor belt that constantly moves, pushing endless product past the workers. Everyone is wearing goggles, rubber gloves, and those thick industrial aprons, and they’re all frantically cleaning something I can’t quite make out.

Someone grabs me by the back of the neck and yells, “What are you doing! You’re going to ruin everything!”

I run to my spot at the end of the line, put on my goggles, gloves, and apron. I pick up a rag and a bottle of disinfectant. I look down at the conveyor belt. I still can’t see what I’m supposed to be cleaning, but I spray it anyhow and start to wipe.

I turn to the person next to me and ask, “What are we cleaning?”

He looks at me. His face is a flat shiny surface with no eyes or nose. It looks exactly like the countertop I was cleaning at my old job.

“You know,” he says. He has a raspy voice that sounds like a tire releasing air.

“No, I don’t,” I say. “This is my first day. What are we cleaning?”

“You’ve always known,” he says.

He points down at the conveyor belt, and it finally comes into focus. It’s lined with baby parts. Legs and arms and fingers for miles and miles.

“Clean,” he whispers.

The conveyor belt starts to move. I pick up a baby’s foot and begin to disinfect it. But I can’t get it clean. The more I wipe, the bloodier it gets. I look at the other workers, but they’re not having the same problem. I keep going. My gloves and apron are covered in blood. There’s so much blood that it starts to fill up the room.

Finally, a loud horn blares, and the conveyor belt stops. Everyone on the assembly line turns to look at me. The room is dead silent.

I try to make a run for it, but my boots are stuck in a thick puddle of blood and won’t budge.

“They’re going to call the manager,” he says.

And that’s when I wake up.

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